On December 3rd, 2018, Yadkin Riverkeeper, based in Winston-Salem, NC, announced the appointment of Brian Fannon as its new Riverkeeper. Yadkin Riverkeeper, a nonprofit organization for over ten years, functions as the protector and voice for the Yadkin River. As shared in their press release, Board President Vanessa Zboreak also announced Edgar Miller as the new Executive Director. “We are excited to have a new leadership team in place and look forward to their being on the front lines of efforts to protect and advocate for water quality in the Yadkin River watershed. The river provides drinking water for nearly 850,000 people in the northwest and central Piedmont regions of the state and is the state’s second largest watershed, comprising almost 7,200 square miles.”
Brian is a native of North Carolina. He worked as a fisheries biologist in Alaska and along the East Coast, held positions in natural and cultural history preservation and interpretation, including as Education Director at Allison Woods Outdoor Learning Center in Statesville, NC, and taught environmental science at schools and universities, including Salem College and in rural Kenya. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Wake Forest University, a Master of Science in Historical Geography from Appalachian State University, and PhD in Physical Geography from UNC Greensboro.
“My vision for Yadkin Riverkeeper is to pursue swimmable, fishable, and drinkable water for all residents of the Yadkin watershed,” Brian shared in the press release. “I hope to encourage people not only to appreciate the Yadkin, but also to enjoy the river—the history, boating, fishing, and just plain playing in the water that reconnects us with our world.”
What are some initiatives that Yadkin Riverkeeper has in process?
A reminder of the close relationship folks living in this area have with the river is an important initiative. Most people don’t consider where the water that runs into their homes comes from; we simply assume it’s clean and safe for all the activities that use water (cooking, bathing, keeping lawns lush and green, etc.). We actually are part of the Yadkin River Basin from a scientific point of view; we ourselves are 60% water, so we are impacted whether we realize it or not. As Brian shared, “It’s a ‘tap to toilet’ relationship; [but] we never think about where the water comes from or where it’s going.”
There are recreational activities linked to the river that are not managed by Yadkin Riverkeeper; however, they are directly involved in ensuring clean water is available to all. The Yadkin River Basin is the second largest watershed in NC; continuing as the PeeDee River, the second largest on the East Coast. The Yadkin offers tremendous recreation opportunities (boating from kayaks to power boats, swimming, fishing, or duck hunting). Yakin Riverkeeper encourages usage of local waters for exercise, picnics, and family time that build memories that last a lifetime.
There are numerous outfitters along the river—for tubes, kayak, and canoes. These river activities provide local entrepreneurs with economic support and allow them to grow their businesses for local water enthusiasts, as well as tourists to the area.
There are many environmental concerns that challenge keeping the Yadkin waters safe and clean:
- Heavy snows or rain
- Trash and debris
- Erosion, especially in heavily farmed areas. The river is muddy due to 200 years of agriculture.
- Nutrient overloading, impacting the aquatic ecosystem
- Unchecked Development—building roads, homes, or commercial development
- Coal ash storage near the river
Brian shared that there are many groups that devote time to voluntary clean-ups along the river. Some of these are by Yadkin Riverkeeper teams, individual groups, and nonprofit projects. As a community, we all have a stake in keeping our waters clean and safe.
Yadkin Riverkeeper regularly goes into local schools (from elementary through college level) to share what the organization does to achieve the overall core goal of high-quality water.
For more information about Yadkin Riverkeeper opportunities for involvement, from volunteering, joining the organization, or making a donation, visit their website (YadkinRiverkeeper.org). Follow themon Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Let’s all pitch in to keep our waters clean!